For better or for worse, Tyler Flowers won't be looking over his shoulder this season. - Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE
With most everybody at the annual White Sox convention getting along so famously, a standout takeaway is hard to find.
For the past three SoxFests, a major story or theme came out of the Palmer House Hilton.
In 2010, the decision to let Jim Thome sign elsewhere hovered over the proceedings, with Kenny Williams pinning the responsibility on Ozzie Guillen.
In 2011, the Sox tried to put a festive spin on the weekend by picking up Guillen's option for the 2012 season, which he didn't end up using.
In 2012, we had to use SoxFest to glean information about Robin Ventura and a completely new coaching staff, because we knew nothing about anybody.
What's this year's big takeaway? It's harder to put a finger on it. It probably has something to do with the lack of A.J. Pierzynski, but not Rick Hahn's part in it. He faced the angry masses, but he's had to answer questions about Pierzynski for months. His answers were the same as always, except these ones had some smoky sabermetric seasoning.
The forum did give us a better idea of the situation Tyler Flowers inherits. He's tired of the Pierzynski questions (which might be why he was happy to talk to Larry about the way he calls a game). His teammates want everybody to turn the page. Hahn said they're sticking with him. The Sox basically did everything short of Paul Konerko saying, "A.J. Pierzynski is not walking through that door," and I don't know if any of it resonated among the dissatisfied factions.
Take anything related to the catching situation out of the equation, and all you have left is a feel-good weekend with plenty of positive interactions between everybody involved, and that might a tone the Sox set from the inside out:
Despite Hahn's contractual and statistical expertise, the Sox haven't shifted entirely in the sabermetrics direction.
"The advantage we have here is that Rick Hahn is a great listener," assistant GM and former third base standout Buddy Bell said Sunday at a seminar. "He listens to the baseball people. He wants to learn about that side as we want to learn about having that sabermetrics side. It's unreasonable to think that won't help us.
"And I think sometimes when you're looked upon as more of an old-school guy, I don't think it's old school or new school. The right way of doing things is using all the resources you have to make you smarter, to make you make a better decision. In this system, it's a lot easier for us because we have a good mix and good listeners."
Hey, when we look back at this year's SoxFest, maybe we'll see it as the official start of an era without posturing or pretense. We'll get a better idea whether that's true when Hahn has to face tougher questions. Hopefully, they won't still be about Flowers.